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343 of 350 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book of its kind I've ever read
I read a lot of books in this genre - call it "professional self-help." I've spoken professionally a few times now about leadership and communication, and for my most recent one just a few months ago I did a ton of reading research and a lot of it was books like this one. Most of them are mediocre. I began reading The Charisma Myth expecting more of the same, frankly:...
Published on May 15, 2012 by Brian Sharp

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72 of 85 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good synthesis of communications research; could be more focused
Olivia Fox Cabane integrates findings from social psychology and neuropsychology research, with principles of Emotional Intelligence and "Practical Buddhist Philosophy", and concluded that charismatic behaviors are based on managing internal state, beliefs through self-awareness, self-management to focus on others and "make them feel good."

This synthesis is...
Published 23 months ago by Kathryn Welds


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343 of 350 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book of its kind I've ever read, May 15, 2012
By 
Brian Sharp (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism (Kindle Edition)
I read a lot of books in this genre - call it "professional self-help." I've spoken professionally a few times now about leadership and communication, and for my most recent one just a few months ago I did a ton of reading research and a lot of it was books like this one. Most of them are mediocre. I began reading The Charisma Myth expecting more of the same, frankly: platitudes, some common sense stuff, the kinds of advice that will only make sense to people who don't need it. I was just hoping for a tidbit or two that would be useful.

I don't really gush about things. If anything I tend to be very demanding and therefore very critical. Like I said, I think most books in this genre are essentially useless.

The Charisma Myth is a truly phenomenal book. It's so good that I have recommended it to several of my colleagues and it has already changed the way I manage my team and relate to my coworkers. In fact, my first gut reaction when I read it was "I guess I should stop speaking, now, because everything I'd want to talk about is covered in here."

Here's the thing: most of these kinds of books give you a few things:

1. Platitudes: useless, pithy sayings.
2. Random Anecdotes: stories that don't really offer any takeaway you can act on.
3. Abstract Imperatives: things like "be a good listener!" If you're not already a good listener that's kind of like saying "Roast Beef Recipe: Get some beef and roast it." It's not helpful - it doesn't tell me what actual specific actions to take.

Here's what this book gave me:

1. Extremely concrete, specific actions: Every piece of advice about conduct or mindset is accompanied by direct actions to take. When you're in a conversation and find your mind drifting, bring it back to a physical sensation in the present, like the feeling in your toes. That's just one example of many, but they're all things you can actually DO, not abstract imperatives like "be a better listener" or pithy-but-vapid stuff like "smile more!"

2. Visualizations: I've never seen anyone push visualization like Olivia does. She makes the compelling point that visualization is something top athletes and actors have known about forever. In my talks I've always felt slightly uncomfortable urging people to do visualizations, but not anymore, not after reading this. She runs through a lot of specific visualizations, and they're immediately useful practices.

3. Taxonomies: Of the most useful business and management blogs I read, some of their most useful posts (I'm thinking of randsinrepose.com, for example) are taxonomies. "The five kinds of meeting attendees." "The four kinds of firefighting." Or whatever. These are helpful to me because by enumerating a problem space as a handful of distinct categories they help me crystallize my own thinking about it. Olivia does this when she enumerates the four kinds of charisma. Look, I think I'm a good manager and leader, an empathetic guy and good at my job, I'm not gonna lie, but I'd never thought about it in this way. This was pretty eye-opening to me. I read this part and thought, oh yeah, I've got the "focus" and "kindness" charisma but less of the "authority" and definitely least of all the "visionary" charisma. And that gives me specific things to work on, and a way to understand why I'm better at motivating people in certain circumstances rather than others.

To anyone who wants to be more charismatic: to be more successful at work, more able to positively influence those around them, more able to open up and make real connections with others, and just more able to lead a rich and happy life - and I know how this sounds, I swear I don't usually gush like this! - this book tells you everything you need to know. Everything! No other book I've read does that.

To be clear, that's like saying Rippetoe's "Starting Strength" tells you everything you need to know to be a very good, extremely strong weightlifter. You still have to do a ton of really hard work! This book doesn't make you magically charismatic. But it gives you direct, specific, applied practices that, if you do them, will make you more charismatic and enrich your life. Of all the pop psychology, management, leadership, and professional self-help books I've ever read, I cannot say that about a single other one.

I give this book my absolute highest recommendation. It is absolutely superb. I don't say that lightly.
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187 of 198 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book helped me land my new job!, May 10, 2012
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I bought this book to help me during a job application with a company I really wanted to work for. The final part of the application process was a series of onsite interviews with different staff members, I was looking for something to help me with this section and fortunately came across this book through hearing the author being interviewed.

There is a wealth of great information in this book, and what I really appreciate is the many references to concrete academic studies which have proven the points being made in the book.

If you are going to benefit from this book, do the exercises and try to internalize as much as you can to keep applying it to your everyday life.

The first thing I tried to apply was being present in conversations to be a better listener. The first time I tried this on somebody they spoke for almost 2 hours straight about their day. They were happy because they were truly being listened to and I was enjoying seeing how uplifting it was for them to have the spotlight shone firmly on them.

To start focusing on the interview I spent ages practicing handshakes with a partner, there is so much more to a good handshake than simply a firm grip. Once you have your own handshake down, you can't help but begin to accessing somebody you meet by observing their handshake.
I found on my interview day, as I shook hands with people, I felt more in control when
they had limp handshakes, as if I knew they had just given me an upper hand so to speak, like a poker playing reading tells.

On my interview day I made sure to speak slowly and lower my tone at the end of sentences and threw in many, many random pauses and waited two seconds to speak before responding. All of these are some of the early tips in this book to increase your charisma.

But being charismatic isn't just about outward things such as good handshakes and controlling how you speak, it is mostly skills with dealing with internal things, because these internal things control how you are presented to the world, which in turn controls how charismatic you are.

The responsibility transfer worked really well, I continuously did it in the days leading up to the interview, so much so
that when I had the interview I was as calm as a tibetan monk. I didn't need to do it on the day, because by the time I went there
I had psychologically absolved myself from responsibility.

Even the stuff on Impostor Syndrome helped me, on the way to the interview I found myself negatively telling myself that I wasn't
good enough for the role and that the interviewers would take me to pieces. I just stepped back, looked at the thoughts as if I were
an observer rather than trying to fight them, and I also reasoned that everybody has these feelings and feels like they are impostors
when pushed out of their comfort zone.

Before each of the interviewers walked I followed the tips on warmth, so that I could greet each one with a real level of warmth and I then found every
interviewer was really warm and friendly the whole way through in response to this.

I gave this book 5 stars, because it made a measurable difference in how I carried myself going into a tough interview. If you want to get ahead in today's world you need to have great soft skills to compliment your hard skills. This book will seriously raise the bar on your soft skills.
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148 of 162 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Charisma is a Trainable Skill, April 19, 2012
By 
J. F. Malcolm (Fort Lauderdale, FL United States) - See all my reviews
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We all admire and envy those individuals that have it: the ability to walk into a room and captivate the attention of everyone. Imagine how much easier your life and your work would be if you had that natural quality. Everyone would want to be around you, would hang on every word that comes out of your mouth, and would want to do what you want.

In The Charisma Myth, Olivia Fox Cabane makes a convincing argument that you can have that ability, because charisma is the product of a certain mindset and behaviors that are trainable. In short, if you read this book, and practice and apply its techniques, you too can be the lightbulb instead of one of the moths.
When you come across a book like this, you may be reminded of the old ads in comic books when you were a kid, that promised to turn you from a 98-pound weakling into a musclebound stud who ruled the beach and got all the girls. The reality is that you can make the change--just don't expect it to happen overnight or without a lot of hard work. You have to work at the exercises even when they get hard.

Here's an example: One of the components of charisma is presence, which is a great thing to have but hard to define. In one of those aha! moments that seem obvious only in retrospect, presence is defined as the ability to be fully present in the moment, to be so focused on the person you're talking to that you can make them feel like they're the most important person in the world at that time. It's a skill that Bill Clinton is said to have in spades. That's great advice, and you will definitely see a difference if you work on it--but you can also imagine how hard it is to do. You may easily be distracted, be thinking ahead to what you want to say, have personal filters or biases against the person, etc. Yet, with practice and constant reminders, it is a skill that gets easier with time.

One way to make the skill easier to use is to have the right mental state, and the section of the book that deals with that topic is one of the best. You can't fake the body language and behaviors that make you charismatic; with a few exceptions, the psychology has to precede the physiology. For example, it's hard to project confidence when you're tormented by doubts, and it's tough to project warmth when you don't feel much compassion for the person you're talking to. If you can get into the right mindset of gratitude, goodwill and compassion, most of the behaviors and body language will take care of themselves.

The book itself is excellent: it's evidence-based, filled with useful information and practical tips, and well-written. If you read it carefully, do some of the exercises and work on applying some of its tips in your work and personal relationships, you should definitely improve the quality of your interactions and increase your influence.

The book does a good job of explaining the components of charisma and then suggesting ways to increase each factor, both in general terms and in specific situations. In general terms, you want to focus on improving your presence, power and warmth. The specific situations are first impressions, speaking and listening, presentations, and difficult situations.

One of the reasons that charisma seems so mysterious is that so many different types of people can display it: it's hard to find similarities between Marylin Monroe and George Patton, for example. It's easier to understand when you see that there are four types of charisma, focus (Clinton), kindness (Dalai Lama), visionary (Steve Jobs), and authority (Gates). It's also helpful because you can tailor your approach for the best fit with your own personality.

One quibble I have with the book is that an overreliance on using well-known people as examples can sometimes confuse cause and effects. For example, there is a quote from an executive raving about fact Bill Gates: "If it's the quality that draws people towards you and makes them want to listen to what you have to say, then Bill has that, too." That may be true, but having nine zeros in your net worth and controlling the fate of so many people just might have something to do with it. Did Steve Jobs sell a lot of products because of his visionary charisma, or did the success of his visionary products make him charismatic?

We're hardwired to respond differently to high-status individuals. When a person surrounded by Secret Service agents takes the time to really focus on us, we feel special and it leaves a lasting impression. The same behavior by a lower ranking person can seem overly deferential and submissive. That's why the sections that describe Cabane's successes with ordinary folks are the ones that resonate the most and are the most credible.

And that's the main point you should take from this book: everyone can learn to be more charismatic--if they're willing to work at it. Charisma is not a quality--it's a set of practices.
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103 of 121 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Supercharged charm in a can, March 29, 2012
Ideally, a self-improvement book conveys information that is easy to learn, hard to forget, and irreversibly enriches your life. This book does well on all three counts. Olivia's lucid and straightforward writing style conveys the information clearly; her instructions ("stand like a gorilla") stay with you long after you've read the book; and the skills you acquire are essential for success in any endeavor involving other people (i.e. everything). You would do well to learn them.

Here are some reasons why I liked this book:
-- Olivia has been teaching this stuff for years. So when she tells us that something works, it's because she's tested it numerous times and seen it work. I value first-hand experience, and she's had plenty of it.
-- On top of her own empirical data, she backs up every claim and technique with scientific sources. This makes skeptics like me more willing to believe and implement the techniques.
-- It's about a skill essential to living a full life: charm. And yet, hardly anyone has bothered to teach us about it. This book fills that gap nicely.
-- It's got a bunch of exercises that really work when you do them. As a bonus, many of the techniques work pretty much instantly. You do it, and you feel the physiological and mental shift, like, now. I'm a sucker for immediate gratification, so I approve.

If I were to have a quibble with the book, it's that it could be shorter. The same information could have been conveyed in less space. It does have a 9-page summary at the end with all the key exercises, though, which almost makes up for it.

Some cool and useful things I learned from the book:

-- The three dimensions of charisma - presence, power, and warmth - and specific ways you can dial each one up or down. For example, to increase presence, become aware of your toes. Sounds crazy, but it works. (Also, put the damn phone down and pay attention).

-- 8 ways to neutralize negativity. Two I liked are "don't assume your thoughts are accurate" and "imagine your thoughts as only little electrical flickers in your brain", which they kinda are.

-- The 4 charismatic styles - focus (eg Bill Gates), visionary (eg Steve Jobs), kindness (eg Dalai Lama) and authority (eg Colin Powell) - and tips for developing each one. For example, for visionary charisma, you need to get yourself in a state of absolute conviction. For authority, display signs of status and confidence, like dressing up.

-- Professional speaking tips: how to own the stage, pause deliberately, and recover from a fumble.

Even if you implement a fraction of what's in 'The Charisma Myth', you're bound to get some good results, so this is money well-invested. As for me, starting today I'm implementing as many of its suggestions as I can keep in mind. So if you find me nodding less, pausing more, maintaining more eye contact and standing wide like a gorilla next time we meet, you'll know why.

-- Ali Binazir, MD, MPhil, author of 'The Tao of Dating: The Smart Woman's Guide to Being Absolutely Irresistible', the highest-rated dating self-help book on Amazon (4.9/5.0 stars)
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72 of 85 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good synthesis of communications research; could be more focused, August 4, 2012
By 
Kathryn Welds (Redwood Shores, CA) - See all my reviews
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Olivia Fox Cabane integrates findings from social psychology and neuropsychology research, with principles of Emotional Intelligence and "Practical Buddhist Philosophy", and concluded that charismatic behaviors are based on managing internal state, beliefs through self-awareness, self-management to focus on others and "make them feel good."

This synthesis is both a strength and a potential limitation because the topics range from non-verbal communication to presentation skills to self-management through visualization to managing difficult people. Many of these topics could have been covered in a blog post, magazine article, or an e-book.

Although she alludes to debates about the value of "charisma" as a theoretical construct, she incompletely refutes the critiques of research-based charisma nay-sayers.

Fox Cabane asserts that "charisma" or "presence" is composed of:

*Presence - mindful attention, patient listening, avoiding interruption

*Power - appearance, clothing, occupy space, positive wording (avoid "don't"), placebo effect

*Warmth - chin down, eye contact, Duchenne smile (mouth corners, eye corners), gratitude, compassion, appreciation - counteract "hedonic adaptation"

*Goodwill - wishing the other person well

*Empathy - understanding the other's experience

*Altruism

*Compassion - a combination of empathy+goodwill

*Forgiveness of self and others

*Self-compassion - self-acceptance. Positively correlated with emotional resilience, sense of personal responsibility, accountability, sense of connectedness, life satisfaction, positive relationships with others, self-confidence, willingness to admit errors, low self-pity, low depression, low anxiety, improved immune system functioning

*"Metta" - loving kindness to self, others

Fox Cabane offers three "quick fixes" to increase your "charisma":

* Lower the intonation of your voice at the end of your sentences (no "Valley Girl talk"...)

* Reduce the speed and rapidity of nodding

* Pause for two seconds before you speak

Her website, [...], provides further details, references (including obscure newsletters and websites), and resources.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars not just for sparkly-toothed sales people, June 5, 2012
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Simply put, this book is a good read and an extremely useful toolbox. For anyone.

The first chapters deconstruct charisma from something mystical and genetic into a few basic behaviors that we can do something about. It's an idea both liberating and reassuring, and piqued my curiosity to read the rest (the framework for the book is in the first few chapters which you can read for free on Amazon).

What makes this book useful is the fact that you can act on it. Quickly. Every chapter has suggestions for actions you can take to improve how you present yourself to people. And these suggestions are not about reaching some nebulous goal of "improving charisma", they are about making better first impressions, giving better presentations, dealing with difficult people... scenarios that we all encounter regularly and all of us know we could handle better.

This is not just the province of sparkly-toothed sales people. I run a nonprofit, for example. I have to deal with donors and fundraising, I have presentations to give, and I have a team to manage. Every one of those activities --- whether I like it or not -- depends on how people perceive me. I think about the times I've given incredibly thorough pitches to foundations, or proposed a new budget to my team, only to have it fall flat because of the way I presented the content and myself.

Here's one tiny example of something I found useful. One of the chapters made me realize that I nod often in conversation. I suppose I do it to indicate that I'm listening. According to the book, nodding in agreement with people demonstrates empathy but lowers your projection of power and status. When you stop to think about it for a minute (imagine someone who nods a lot in conversation), it's absolutely true. I'm trying to do it less. Small tips like that, or pausing two seconds before you answer questions, are simple things that can make a difference in the outcome of critical interactions. Do I want that donor thinking I'm a nice guy, or someone who can accomplish great things with her money?

This book presents a wide range of tools, from simple physical behaviors (like nodding, speaking, and handshakes); to more complicated communication like structuring feedback to people in difficult situations and making a better impression over the phone; to more subtle actions to improve your mental state going into important situations. All of these tools are actionable and summarized helpfully at the end of the chapter.

Criticisms? As with all of these kinds of books that deal with behavioral psychology and influence -- like Robert Cialdini's Influence -- there is a dollop or two of pop psychology that feels overly simplified. One or two of the examples are well-trodden and you may recognize them from other books. The author doesn't have time to go into the issue of how these observations translate across cultures -- and I imagine the rules would be different if you were in a business meeting in Japan. Lastly, the sheer breadth of topics and examples sometimes makes it feel like a grab bag. However, it's a useful kind of grab bag: more like a swiss army knife than an overstuffed purse.

Overall, the thesis of the book is great, and the content was engaging and actionable. I would recommend it to my dad to improve the results he gets with his church vestry, an MBA looking to help navigate her way up the corporate ladder, a buddy going on his first date after a divorce, or a teacher preparing for her PTA meetings.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars All About Your Mindset, July 28, 2013
So where do I begin on this book? I typically avoid self help books at all costs since I think they are usually based off of basic ideas and concepts that an average person could formulate if he/she just sat down and took a look at the situation they were looking for help with. The reason I decided to buy this book was because I was at a local bookstore and found the first 15 pages interesting enough. I also had a business presentation from the day before that I felt could have gone better. A lot of that was based on the fact that anxiety can override my natural personality.

I read this book looking for a way to connect with people differently than I currently do. I want to build stronger relationships in and out of work, critically listen to other people better, and just be in the moment when it comes to my daily interactions. I'm not afraid to say that my current interactions are more superficial due to the nature of my work. I went into this book looking to really connect with people more than I have in the past. Here are the pros and cons of this book from that perspective:

Pros:
- I actually do feel like the exercises have helped me especially those based on focusing on the current situation, staying out of your head, and enjoying discomfort.
- Easy read

Cons:
- Some of the ideas about exuding power are too superficial for my taste. In fact, I used to dress nicer in the past, but have decided to dress to match my personality vs dressing to look powerful.
- So much fluff!!! This book could have been written in 40 pages or less in my opinion.
- The middle of the book really slows down and gets frustrating to read through.

I do think charisma can be learned, but I don't think this book serves as the be all end all by any means. While exercises that help you cope with certain issues does provide some help, I think going from someone who has very little charisma to someone who seems to be oozing it will require more of a lifestyle and mindset change that this book could hope to offer.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most valuable books I've read, August 4, 2012
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This book is a must for people who communicate with others - and therefore for everybody. It has explained many common situations I've encountered before and let me see them in a completely new light, wondering why I haven't known about it before. The advices in the book are simple and clear and I have already started to profit from the book!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-have for mastering your social life, July 31, 2013
By 
Jesse Rose (Spokane, WA, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism (Kindle Edition)
One of my favorite books of all-time is Dale Carnegie's classic "How to Win Friends and Influence People," which I surprisingly only read about a year ago. Despite having been first published in 1936, it holds up surprisingly well after all this time and teaches the reader many powerful lessons on how to become better at interacting with others - one of the most crucial things you'll ever do in this life. Some may wave his book off as "common sense," but many of us are not provided an adequate education in socialization. If you take notice how often other people will zone out, switch the subject back to themselves, or interrupt you in the middle of a conversation (or if you notice yourself doing these things), I think you'll agree with me. I still consult Carnegie's book every now and then to keep his teachings fresh in my mind.

Olivia Fox Cabane's recent publication, "The Charisma Myth," is a natural extension of Carnegie's book. Despite only having only been released a few years ago, many of the simple concepts in "Friends and Influence" are present in Cabane's own lessons. However, Cabane offers many updates and additions that only the passing of time have made available, including the importance of "presence" (the best take-away I got from the book), the different "types" of charisma and the situations that call for each one, the practice of making oneself more comfortable with discomfort, and speaking in public to maximum effect. Cabane's book is frequently footnoted and backed up by multiple sources of scientific research in addition to personal anecdotes, a difference that makes her book even more solid.

This book is technically classified as a "business" book and features a lot of focus on interacting in a company setting, but I would recommend it to just about anybody interested in bettering their abilities to communicate with people in any situation. I have often heard that the most crucial skill for a successful career is not intelligence or working ethic (though these are excellent to have) but the ability to interact with others at the highest capacity. I'm not sure how true this notion is in effect, but it's undoubted that many who have gotten far in life are experts in connecting with people. Start with Dale Carnegie's book (which can be found for free online in PDF form on several web sites), but for further education, pick up "The Charisma Myth." This book has as many 5-star reviews as it does for a reason.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful and actionable, March 16, 2013
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This review is from: The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism (Kindle Edition)
I download the Gildan Media audio version from books24x7 and now I am buying a kindle copy for reference. I am also recommending this to co-worker.

One problem we have in the IT industry is we are too technical and often too concern with being right.
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